Prolific goalscorers Worksop Town gave everything in pursuit of play-off glory on Tuesday, but for once they just couldn’t get the ball in the net.
The Fylde net lived a charmed life, as the ball struck the post, keeper Ben Hinchcliffe made several great saves, and Fylde defenders and even Worksop players got in the way.
The world’s fourth oldest club were handed a cruel, cruel fate in the final seconds of a pulsating play-off semi-final, as Tom Burgin’s goalbound shot hit team-mate Shane Clarke on the line – and seconds later Fylde made it 3-1.
The injury time goal ended Worksop’s season, and helped Fylde squeeze into the final by the skin of their teeth to face surprise winners of the other semi-final Ashton.
Worksop were roared onto the pitch by a sizable and vocal support, and roared off it after a magnificent effort that somehow came to nought.
For 96 minutes Tigers chased, harried and hussled to stop their slick opponents from playing out from the back.
Mark Shaw’s men survived an early scare as Alex Pursehouse had to clear off the line.
But then Tigers led, Burgin’s long throw – a tactic used to good effect all night – was headed down for Conor Higginson to smash home a lovely half volley.
The lead lasted just two minutes, a left wing cross reaching Richie Allen and the dangerman produced a finish every bit as good as Higginson’s.
In a blow for the visitors, Jake Scott limped off before half an hour was played, Warren Burrell his replacement.
They forged the next chance, Mettam’s shot saved by Ben Hinchcliffe and the rebound smashed over the bar by Jack Muldoon from a few yards out.
Burgin had a free header from a Mettam corner, he too cleared the bar however.
Jon Stewart was called into action early in the second half to beat out Matt Blinkhorn’s shot, and at the other end Adam Quinn’s diving header looked a goal until Hinchcliffe got a hand to it.
The resulting corner found Tom Denton and the big man had his head in his hands when the ball struck the post.
Against the run of play, Fylde scored a goal that showed their potency on the counter attack, Allen getting on the end of a sublime pass to round Stewart and make it 2-1.
Back came Tigers, Denton, Mettam, Clarke and Clay all with chances that were either saved, blocked or wide of the target.
The hosts were always dangerous when they broke, and with Stewart upfield for a corner Danny Lloyd came oh so close to finding the empty net from a good 40 yards out.
Pursehouse made another goal-saving intervention on the line from Blinkhorn’s header late on, and then the Tigers full-back – playing on the left after Phil Roe departed injured – suffered heartbreak.
Burgin’s shot was going in until the ball hit Clarke on the line, Fylde came away with it and Pursehouse was forced into a last ditch tackle on Dave Hankin that the referee deemed a foul.
Allen stepped up to complete his hat-trick from the spot, the men in white celebrated wildly, while the men in yellow sank to their knees in despair.
That last action of the game displayed the fine margins that can define seasons in the sport we love and often hate.
A deserved ovation from the away fans will have been a crumb of comfort for Shaw and his side, on a bitterly disappointing Spring night in Fylde.
In time Worksop Town will reflect on an incredibly exciting 2013/14 campaign, but the next few days will yield regret and tinges of jealousy as either Fylde or Ashton secure Conference North football for next season.
AFC Fylde: Hinchcliffe, Hankin, Sumner, Langley, Russell, B. Barnes, M. Barnes (Lloyd 76), Winter, Blinkhorn, Booth (Hughes 82), Allen. Not used: Cooke, Noon, Gregory.
Worksop: Stewart 8, PURSEHOUSE 8, Roe 8 (Clay 67), Scott 7 (Burrell 29 7), Quinn 8, Burgin 8, Muldoon 7, Clarke 8, Denton 8, Mettam 7, Higginson 7 (Jackson 76). Not used: Garnett.
Referee: P. Gibbons.
Assistants: A. Telford, J. Broadhurst.
Goalscorers: Allen 19, 65, 90; Higginson 17.
Yellows: Winter 20; Mettam 90, Pursehouse 90.